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Amazon's cloud now less prone to failure

EC2 adds more elasticity and zonality

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Amazon's utility computing-style EC2 service just got more muscular. Thanks to a pair of new options, customers can take steps to ensure their applications keep running when system failures or network disruptions occur.

First off, Amazon has rolled out "Availability Zones", which address a major weakness in the EC2 system. Customers have been able to run multiple copies of their applications within Amazon's EC2 computing centers. The problem, however, was that Amazon planted those instances wherever its system saw fit. So, a customer could theoretically end up running multiple copies of its applications on a single physical server, which rather defeats the redundancy goal.

Through an API call, customers can now direct their applications to specific systems or availability zones. Each of the zones has its own power, networking and cooling systems, which means that your application should stay up if a major issue such as a fire or network outage affects one zone.

There's more detailed information on how to configure your zones here.

In addition, Amazon will offer customers "Elastic IP" addresses, which are cloudified versions of static IP addresses. Basically, you can now tie a given IP address to your overall account rather than a specific server. Amazon thinks this gives customers more options when dealing with potential system failures or just tweaks to a given a configuration.

For more, we turn to the horse's mouth,

Unlike traditional static IP addresses, Elastic IP addresses can be dynamically remapped on the fly to point to any compute instance in a developer’s Amazon EC2 account. This means that rather than waiting on a data technician to reconfigure or replace a host, or waiting for DNS to propagate to all of their customers, developers can now engineer around problems with their instance or software by quickly remapping their Elastic IP address to a replacement instance. Elastic IP addresses make it easy for companies to host websites, web services, and other online applications on Amazon EC2, enabling a new range of customers to take advantage of Amazon’s elastic, on-demand, cloud computing offering.

There's additional bits on the Elastic IPs here.

Digging deeper into EC2, developers will also find that Amazon has added more flexibility around the creation of AMIs (Amazon Machine Images), which are the actual software packages running on the service.

We're told that customers can "select the kernel and RAM disk to bundle with your AMI or to specify a kernel and RAM disk at launch time."

Some new AMIs include:

  • Fedora Core 6 - 32 bit - a stock FC6 release with matching kernel and RAM disk
  • Fedora 8 - 32 bit - a stock F8 release with matching kernel and RAM disk
  • Fedora 8 - 64 bit - a stock F8 release with matching kernel and RAM disk
  • 2.6.18 Kernel - 32 bit - a stock 2.6.18 kernel (can be used with 32 bit AMIs)
  • 2.6.18 Kernel - 64 bit - a stock 2.6.18 kernel (can be used with 64 bit AMIs)

The major server vendors, excluding a lurching Sun Microsystems, appear content to let Amazon roll out and now nicely refine its utility computing service. How curious.

With Amazon being the major game in town, customers must be pleased to see it add in these types of resiliency features. It's only worth putting up with the 'cloud computing' lingo if the technology actually lives up to its billing and reduces some of the headaches associated with relying on dedicated, physical systems. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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